‘It’s been a big broom but one we needed’

Goalkeeper Ross Turnbull will be key for Barnsley this season.
Goalkeeper Ross Turnbull will be key for Barnsley this season.
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IF you are a Barnsley fan who elected to skip the Reds’ pre-season fixtures, chances are you might have a quizzical look on your face if you are at Oakwell on Saturday.

You may even care to whisper: ‘Who’s he?’ when inspecting the team in red and immediately consult the match-day programme for advice at the club’s League One opener against Crawley.

At least a familiar figure in Danny Wilson will be in the home dug-out for the first third-tier league game at Oakwell since April 29, 2006.

Speaking of statistics, there will, in all likelihood, be a rather noteworthy one. The highest number of debutants fielded by the Reds since the end of World War Two.

Barnsley’s squad has had a huge makeover following their relegation last term.

Just three players – Jean-Yves M’voto, Martin Cranie and Danny Rose – remain from match-day squad involved in the loss at Middlesbrough on April 26 which consigned Barnsley to the drop.

The future of one of those in Cranie still remains in doubt.

In total, 21 players have left, with Wilson busy bringing in a host of newcomers to compensate for the mass cull. He is not finished yet.

A new goalkeeper, pair of full-backs, new look central midfield and striking department are set to line up for the first time on Saturday.

To say it has been a busy summer for Wilson is the understatement of the year. But he would not have had it any other way.

His work started in earnest at the end of April.

Wilson told The Yorkshire Post said: “With the turn-over of players we have had, it was always going to be time-consuming. From the end of the season to now, we are still at it and identifying players.

“There have been a few players who have left the club which people have been surprised by. It’s been a big broom we have used and I felt we have needed it.

“I think it would have been no different whether we stayed up or not. It was important we put a fresh outlook on things and got in players who can make us a bright and breezy, up-and-coming team over the next few years.”

Proven performers in James Bailey and Ross Turnbull have arrived, along with much-needed pace up front in Kane Hemmings and a striker of lower-league repute in Sam Winnall, who hit 23 goals to help Scunthorpe United to promotion last term.

The deal to sign Winnall for £250,000, which could rise to £500,000, may represent the marquee Reds addition but Wilson has also pledged that youth will also get its head.

A mixture of experience with fresh-faced youth will line up, with opportunity knocking for the likes of Brad Abbott, Paul Digby and Nana Boakye-Yiadom to become home-grown names in the same way that Nicky Eaden, Scott Jones and David Watson did under Wilson in the 1990s.

Wilson, the man who took the Reds into the Premier League, said: “Some of the Academy lads do need an opportunity. Whether they take them or not, that is irrespective

“But at least we are going to give them the experience and the one thing about it is we will not write them off straightaway if it doesn’t work out quickly.

“Players need to see that there is an opportunity in which they can fight to get into first-team football at Barnsley at a young age.”

Given the blooding of young players, allied to the number of new signings, patience is likely to be a virtue for the Reds faithful and while, like any manager, Wilson would dearly love to hit the ground running, he is also pragmatic.

Interestingly, in Barnsley’s previous season at this level in 2005-06 when they memorably clinched promotion at the Millennium Stadium in a penalty shoot-out success over Swansea City, they were a lowly 14th at the end of September.

Wilson said: “Being involved in the top six has got to be our aim, hasn’t it? Let’s see how quickly we settle into our stride.

“But to a certain degree, it won’t be how we start, but how we finish. I would like to think that as the season goes on we will get stronger and better.

“Listen, if we start the season off and win a handful of games, it will boost everyone’s confidence.

“That is the obvious objective, but ultimately it is about challenging at the top at the end of the season.

“We don’t treat the fans with contempt and they will understand exactly what we are trying to do.

“I am sure they will be patient and when they see a brand-new team in front of them and some home-grown lads as well, I am sure they will give them as much support as they need.”